What to make when I’m pressed for time? Usually a pasta dish, and quite often it will be a Carbonara. Fast, easy, and very filling and satisfying. Like so many Italian dishes, its origins are debated. Some say it was a dish made for Italian charcoal workers. Others say it’s from the central Italian dialect word for bacon, “carbonada”. I’ve also heard that it is a dish often made by restaurant workers who come home, and hungry and tired, cook this because of its speed and ease. So when I get home at 6:45 and have to feed people, this is a favorite. The traditional recipe doesn’t include cream, wine, or onions, but I’ve been making this version adapted from Lidia Bastianich for years.
Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- salt to taste
- 4 slices thick bacon or ¼ lb of pancetta
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion sliced
- ¼ cup pinot grigio
- 1 ½ cups homemade chicken stock, or store bought low sodium stock
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 300- 350 grams thin spaghetti
- 3 egg yolks
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Cut the bacon or pancetta into ¼ inch strips. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring, until the bacon is lightly browned, but still soft in the center, about 6 minutes.
- At this point, stir the spaghetti into the boiling salted water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, about 12 minutes.
- The amount of fat in the skillet will vary depending on the bacon. If there is more than 3 to 4 tablespoons of fat in the pan, pour off the excess. If there is less than 3 to 4 tablespoons, add enough olive oil to measure that amount. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and reduce for a minute. Add the stock, bring to a boil and adjust the heat to a simmer. Add the cream. Cook until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer or spaghetti spoon, and drop it directly into sauce in the skillet. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt if necessary. If necessary, add as much pasta cooking water as needed to make enough sauce to generously coat the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, tossing well with tongs after each egg so that it doesn’t scramble. Using the tongs, place a portion into a shallow pasta bowl, swirling the plate or the tongs to make a nest of spaghetti. Top with black pepper and serve with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.